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Quotations From WALTER BENJAMIN


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  • The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (1968). The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, sect. 13 (1936).
  • Living substance conquers the frenzy of destruction only in the ecstasy of procreation.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In One-Way Street and Other Writings (1978). "To the Planetarium," One-Way Street (1928).
  • Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information—hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. "The Task of the Translator," Illuminations (1955, ed. by Hannah Arendt, 1968).
  • Boredom is the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience. A rustling in the leaves drives him away.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (1968). The Storyteller, sct. 8 (1936).

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  • The art of storytelling is reaching its end because the epic side of truth, wisdom, is dying out.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (1968). The Storyteller, sct. 4 (1936).

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  • Death is the sanction of everything the story-teller can tell. He has borrowed his authority from death.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (1968). The Storyteller, sct. 11 (1936).

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  • The idea that happiness could have a share in beauty would be too much of a good thing.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (1968). The Image of Proust, sct. 1 (1929).

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  • Experience has taught me that the shallowest of communist platitudes contains more of a hierarchy of meaning than contemporary bourgeois profundity.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. Letter, March 7, 1931; published in Briefe (Frankfurt, 1966). Quoted in One-Way Street and Other Writings, publisher's note (1978).
  • Genuine polemics approach a book as lovingly as a cannibal spices a baby.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In One-Way Street and Other Writings (1978). "Post No Bills: The Critic's Technique in Thirteen Theses," One-Way Street (1928).

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  • Like ultraviolet rays memory shows to each man in the book of life a script that invisibly and prophetically glosses the text.
    Walter Benjamin (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. repr. In One-Way Street and Other Writings (1978). "Madame Ariane—Second Courtyard on the Left," One-Way Street (1928).

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